Where Is Africa in the Nation? History as Transformative Praxis

  • Cheryl Sterling


For officialdom-Brazil of the past and the present, Africa and all beings and things that claim an African identity are relegated to the abyss and deemed unsuited for social and economic access and mobility. If not deemed peripheral, African cultural markers were modified, co-opted, and renamed to suit the prevailing myth of democracia racial. Through the process of “limpar o sangue” [cleaning the blood] (Mattoso 191), the deliberate choice of racial and cultural identification began. Choosing to forget one’s African ancestry insured access to power and prestige. Thus the elite erased blood ties to Africa, although the bloodlines carried visible markers. Participating in this erasure, blacks chose to marry progressively lighter-skinned individuals in order to “whiten” their descendants who, they hoped, would then gain access to social advantages. Given the pressure to whiten, identifying oneself as African/black and choosing a black identity stands as a revolutionary, subversive act aimed at challenging the national consciousness and the processes of power construction and consolidation. Since most Afro-Brazilians are of mixed heritage, the pivotal query is, How is this African and black identity constructed?


Religious Practice African Ancestry Slave Trade Female Dominance Sacred Space 
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© Cheryl Sterling 2012

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  • Cheryl Sterling

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